With Super Tuesday less than a week away, student groups on campus mobilized campaigns to get out the vote and raise candidate awareness in anticipation of the largest-ever primary day in U.S. history.
Twenty-four states will hold caucuses or primary elections Feb. 5 for one or both parties. RU Democrats President Brett Tinder, a Livingston College junior, acknowledged the significance of the date.
"If it ends Feb. 5," he said. "That's obviously going to change how we form our semester."
But the Dems would act as a middleman between the campaigns and the students, Tinder said.
They hosted former Sen. Bill Bradley as a surrogate for Barack Obama yesterday at Trayes Hall of the Douglass Campus Center.
Bradley began with a story from his days as a professional basketball player for the New York Knicks.
"We played the Boston Celtics back-to-back Saturday night and Sunday night and we lost both games," he said.
The following week, he received a letter from a fan named Joe Pell that said, "Bradley, if you lose one more game to the Boston Celtics, I'm gonna come to your house and kill your dog."
Bradley wrote back to say the team was doing its best and that he didn't own a dog. He thought that was the end of it until a UPS truck pulled into his driveway three weeks later.
"[The driver] puts the box down on the step ... my wife looks out, sees the box, comes to me and says, 'What's this box out there with the dog in it?'"
A note was stapled to the box.
"Bradley, don't get too attached to this dog. Joe Pell," Bradley said.
The lesson of the story was politicians shouldn't get too attached to their jobs.
Although Bradley and other speakers endorsed Obama, Tinder said his group would not back any candidate until the whole group agreed on one in a mock primary.
But other groups would not select a candidate at all, instead promoting the election itself.
"[Endorsing a candidate] is not really what's necessarily appealing for young people," said Sarah Clader, the board chair for New Jersey Public Interest Research Group and a Rutgers College senior. "When you go to them, say, 'Hey, you should go vote, because you should vote for Hillary, or whatever.'"
Together with RU Voting, NJPIRG plans to encourage students to participate in the election by holding non-partisan vote drives, Clader said. Politicians did not pay attention to the youth vote and that needed to change.
"It's not that young people are apathetic," she said. "It's that candidates don't engage us on our issues because we're not voting and so then we don't vote because they're not engaging us on our issues."
The aim of NJPIRG's "New Voters Project" was to break that cycle, Clader said. According to fellow organizer Emily Scarr, they had previously been successful in that regard.
"[In] 2005, there was a 20 percent increase in young voter turnout in the New Brunswick area," said Scarr. "Then last year on College Avenue, there was a 35 percent increase in the votes cast since the last election."
© 2008 Daily Targum via U-WIRE